For many, music can be a form of self expression and even protest against global and societal issues. For others, especially during the holidays, it is a great, simple way to wind down and relax after a long year.
Nigerian music has been on the rise for the past couple of years with artists like Wizkid, Tiwa Savage, and Burna Boy gaining global recognition for their work.
This year has also seen a number of breakout stars and new artists providing a fresh take on Nigeria’s famous Afrobeats genre. Artists like Odunsi and Ladipoe are putting a new spin on Nigerian music and breaking barriers for incoming artists.
After a year that forced the world to shut down and isolate during the COVID-19 pandemic, Nigerian music throughout 2021 has made sure to help bring the world together and inspire true global citizenship.
From Afrobeats to R&B, and from TikTok to the Global Citizen Live stage, West African artists have been hard at work this year helping bring the world together, getting us all singing and dancing throughout 2021. If you've not yet jumped into the remarkable music coming out of West Africa, here are a few Nigerian artists you should definitely add to your playlist.
Temilade (Tems) Openiyi was 2021’s breakout star after singing a verse on Wizkid’s Grammy-nominated album, Made In Lagos. Tems’ distinct Afrobeats and R&B fusion sound has been praised by Pitchfork, NME, and OkayAfrica and has earned her the number one spot on Billboard’s Next Big Sound Chart. Her second EP, If Orange Was A Place, has also gained critical acclaim and according to Pulse Nigeria, includes “music to be enjoyed and understood.”
Listen to If Orange Was A Place here.
"Love Nwantiti", Ckay’s hit tune, was the number one song in the world on Shazzam’s global charts in September. Originally released in 2019, "Love Nwantiti" went viral on TikTok this year and has now gained more than 5 billion views on the platform. "Love Nwantiti", which means "small love" in Igbo, is a love song in which Ckay talks about the effect that his love interest has on him.
Listen to "Love Nwantiti" here.
Made Kuti is the grandson of Fela Kuti, the Nigerian musician well known for his political activism. Made, who plays multiple musical instruments, followed in the footsteps of his grandfather and started singing with his band when he was just eight years old.
In September this year, Made rocked the Global Citizen Live stage for our once-in-a-generation 24-hour event campaigning to defeat poverty and defend the planet. In Made’s new album, Legacy+, he combines political commentary with storytelling with help from his father Femi Kuti, earning them a Grammy nomination for Best Global Music Album.
Listen to Legacy+ here
Falana is a Nigerian Afrobeats and R&B artist whose latest song "Joy" has been praised by Complex for “oozing palpably authentic gratitude for being alive.” Falana has also been featured in Vogue and was highlighted in the New Yorker alongside Davido as one of the Nigerian musicians changing the sound of global pop.
In an interview with Complex, Falana said that her album, Rising, is about self-empowerment and the importance of self love, an essential message for women and girls around the world.
Listen to Rising here.
Ayra Starr is a 19-year-old musician who started her career covering popular songs on Instagram. The artist is proof for young citizens in Africa that you can have a great global presence no matter what your age.
After being signed to Mavin Records — one of the biggest record labels in Nigeria — she released her first album 19 & Dangerous to positive critical responses. 19 & Dangerous was the number one album on the Nigerian iTunes and Apple Music chart at the time of its release, and her single "Away", was listed by OkayAfrica as one of the best Nigerian songs of January 2021.
Listen to 19 & Dangerous here.